Created By: Odon on June 20, 2011 Last Edited By: Odon on June 24, 2011

Border Crossing or Checkpoint Charlie

When the protagonist has to cross a well-defended (or at least well-patrolled) frontier.

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The endgame of Run for the Border. An Espionage Trope, especially during the Cold War what with the Berlin Wall and other well-guarded communist frontiers.

Sometimes the border is covered by barbed wire, guns, dogs and searchlights. At other times it's merely a stretch of open water or forest, but still patrolled at regular intervals.

The Checkpoint Charlie version is when this crossing has to be made at an official border control station. In that case the protagonist better hope their papers are in order.

  • The Spy Who Came In from the Cold opens with the Checkpoint Charlie version. It doesn't go well -- the spy is gunned down right in front of the protagonist Alec Leamas. At the end an escape route is organised across the Berlin Wall, but the Love Interest is gunned down in a pre-arranged setup, as well as Leamas when he goes back for her.
  • Charlie Muffin (1979). Charlie's superiors set him up to be arrested when he crosses the Berlin Wall. Fortunately he's suspicious and gives his papers to an East German hoping to escape to the West. He panics when the arrest takes place and gets killed.
  • Happens several times in the Quiller series, and often mentioned as a Noodle Incident.
  • Subverted in Monsters2010. When the protagonists arrive at the huge wall at the US border they find it abandoned, as the aliens have overrun it.
  • Spoofed in the 1985 action-comedy Gotcha where the hero has to run the gauntlet of Checkpoint Charlie's Obstructive Bureaucrats. He flips them the bird once he's safely through.
  • Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. Frederic Henry and his Love Interest have to row across an Italian lake in a storm to Switzerland in order to escape arrest. They see a Guardi patrol boat, but fortunately it doesn't see them.
  • Friday by Robert A. Heinlein. Action Girl Friday has to cross the Divided States of America. In one case she takes out someone repairing a fence, only for him to follow after her because he wants to escape as well.
  • Game, Set & Match. Bernard Samson is haunted by the memory of a friend who performed a Heroic Sacrifice while crossing the Berlin Wall, enabling him to escape. This scene is shown in the TV series.
  • Babylon A.D. Vin Diesel has to cross the Bering Strait on a Live-Action Escort Mission, despite it being patrolled by Attack Drones that kill everything that moves.
  • James Bond in The Living Daylights arranges for a defector to cross the Czechoslovakian border twice -- first by being shunted through a pipeline and on the second occasion by Weaponised Car. And a cello.
  • The Dogs of War details how guns are smuggled across the French border -- they can either take the random risk of a permanent customs point, or try a forest road that could be manned by a flying customs check that searches every vehicle.

Community Feedback Replies: 9
  • June 20, 2011
    • The Sandbaggers has repeated crossings of the Iron Curtain. In one memorable instance in season 3, one of the main characters gets out of Russia on dodgy papers by going for his passport and accidentally-on-purpose showing the officials a sheaf of dirty photographs instead; they're too busy laughing at him to check his actual passport very thoroughly.
  • June 20, 2011
    The exampls is very strongly a Wall Of Text. I suggest sorting em into examples.
  • June 20, 2011
  • June 20, 2011
    • One episode of MacGyver has a Cold Open in which Mac is attempting to get out of an Iron Curtain country concealed inside a coffin.
    • The Modesty Blaise short story "The Giggle Wrecker" has Modesty and Willie trying to sneak a Soviet defector past the Berlin Wall.

  • June 21, 2011
    • Stripes. An Army unit is accidentally led into Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia. Some members of the unit break into the country through a poorly defended border outpost to rescue them, and break out again through the same outpost.

    Tabletop RPG
    • Shadowrun. Several adventures feature the runners having to pass through heavily defended borders, either through force or guile.
    • Hero Games
      • Champions supplement Red Doom. In one of the adventures the superhero PCs have to smuggle a defecting superhero out of the Soviet Union. If the PCs head west they'll probably end up trying to cross the East/West German border.
      • Espionage adventure Border Crossing
    • Top Secret module "Operation Fastpass". The spy PCs must help a defector escape from behind the Iron Curtain. In order to do so they must get across the border into friendly territory.
  • June 21, 2011
    • Mentioned in the song "Oliver's Army" by Elvis Costello.
      There was a checkpoint Charlie
      He didn't crack a smile
      But it's no laughing party
      When you've been on the murder mile
      Only takes one itchy trigger
      One more widow, one less white nigger
  • June 24, 2011
    • Machete begins with a failed US-Mexico border crossing, serving to demonstrate the villain's complete lack of morals (and intelligence, as they capture the whole thing on film, with the US Senator helpfully identifying himself as he shoots a pregnant woman).
    • Men In Black starts with K arresting one of the aliens trying to cross the Mexican border.
  • June 24, 2011
    An Advertising example of the Checkpoint Charlie variety:
    • In the run-up to the 2006 FIFA World Cup, one commercial featured a man and pregnant woman driving through a border check-point. Just after the guard checks their papers and lets them through, the guards get a phone call. A voice yells, "GOOOOOAAALLL!!!" just as the "pregnant" woman lets a soccer ball fall from under her dress.
  • June 24, 2011
    Kind of happens in Tintin (or was it Tintin trying to prevent someone crossing the border?)